ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, has approved a plan to massively increase the number of available generic top-level domains (gTLDs) from the current 22, which includes .com and .org.
"ICANN has opened the internet's naming system to unleash the global human imagination," said Rod Beckstrom, president and chief executive officer of the organisation.
"Today's decision respects the rights of groups to create new top level domains in any language or script. We hope this allows the domain name system to better serve all of mankind.”
Internet address names will now be able to end with almost any word in any language, boosting marketing opportunities for brands, products, communities and causes "in new and innovative ways". ICANN will soon begin a global campaign to tell the world about this change in gTLDs, with new applications accepted from 12 January until 12 April next year.
It'll cost you
Although ICANN gushed that the decision will "usher in a new internet age" and provide "a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration", it comes at a cost. A BBC report explains that it will set you back $185,000 — about £114,000 — to apply for the suffixes, and organisations will have to prove they have a legitimate claim to the name they are buying. The money will cover costs incurred by ICANN in developing the new gTLDs and employing experts to scrutinise the applications, according to the BBC.
Developer Matt Gemmell says he understands the desire for new gTLDs from a branding perspective: "It's arguably every bit as convenient as SMS shortcodes, QR codes and so forth. It'd be handy to, say, go to 'drivers.canon' to get drivers for a Canon printer." However, while he has "no problem with a proliferation of gTLDs in principle", Gemmell thinks there are two big downsides: "It's cost-prohibitive for smaller entities to obtain such domains and it can potentially introduce a heavy burden on brands that want to secure all relevant domains for their products.
“A completely custom gTLD will become the most desirable sort of domain pretty much overnight, and you can bet that it'll be a mess of domain-camping, legal battles and hijacking for years to come. These eminently foreseeable problems don't outweigh the benefits, but they are why humanity can't have nice things without concomitant hassles."